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Inspiring Words: Goldie Hawn

The actor proves that a little laughter goes a long way.

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Funny girl Goldie Hawn was destined to make people laugh. She got her start as a ditzy blonde giggling through TV’s groundbreaking comedy Laugh-In. She may be best known for her brilliant comic turns in the films Cactus Flower, for which she earned an Academy Award, and Private Benjamin. “I’m a dreamer with lots of energy and a vivid imagination,” she says. “That’s the recipe for becoming an entertainer.”

But Hawn insists her favorite role hasn’t been played on screen. “I always wanted to be a mother first,” she says. With her partner, actor Kurt Russell, the Maryland native raised four children, including daughter Kate (Hudson), now a famous actress in her own right. Hawn often took her brood to her movie sets and recalls feeding baby Kate while one director gave her notes. “It connected my kids to what I was doing,” says Hawn. “By growing up on set, they learned to be respectful. They also learned that they could eat more donuts than anyone else.” Hawn says that today she and Kate, nominated for an Oscar for her role in Almost Famous, are best friends. And son Oliver (Hudson), also an actor, is the person who makes her laugh most.

Hawn’s love for kids reaches beyond her own. In 2003, she created the Hawn Foundation, a nonprofit charity dedicated to improving the well-being of children. It does so by working with schools to encourage students to relax, focus, and, yes, laugh. “A child’s giggle tickles me deeply,” Hawn says, “and it breaks my heart when that begins to disappear. So I do what
I can to create opportunities for children to continue to laugh and rediscover their joy.”

Chatting with Goldie Hawn

Actor, director, producer, and mother of four, Goldie Hawn spoke with Parent & Child for this month’s Inspiring Words. Here, she answers additional questions about the Hawn Foundation, which she created in 2003. But first, the proud mom takes a moment with us to exercise her bragging rights.

P&C: Your relationship with your daughter Kate is so inspiring. What makes you two so close?
Hawn:
I respect her and have always supported her dreams. But to have a fulfilling relationship with our daughters, we must share our whole selves with them. That way there is a closeness that binds us through all the hills and valleys of life.

P&C: Kate is a famous movie actor. Tell us more about your other three children.
Hawn:
Oliver is an actor on a CBS television show called Rules of Engagement. His sense of comedy is profound, and he’s also a very gifted actor and writer. Kurt [Russell] and I are patiently waiting for our son Wyatt to return from Europe, where he is playing professional hockey. Wyatt has also directed four short films. My stepson Boston is a brilliant young man getting his doctorate in religious studies at UC Santa Barbara.

P&C: What inspired you to start the Hawn Foundation?
Hawn:
Raising four children, I became deeply aware of the problems in our school system. One of the outstanding problems is that we don’t teach children in a holistic fashion. We teach to the test, not to the child. Children deserve to feel happy, about themselves and about their schooling. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to helping pioneer new ways of teaching kids.

P&C: According to the website, the goal of the foundation is to help children reduce stress, sharpen concentration, build confidence, and improve academic performance. Can you expand on that?
Hawn:
We give children a “toolbox for life”: simple strategies they can use every day to enhance their chances for happiness and success in school and in their futures. When a child is relaxed, what we call the prefrontal cortex—the executive function—lights up, readying him or her to absorb more information.

P&C: What role do the arts and entertainment play in a child’s life?
Hawn:
Sadly, so many arts programs have been eliminated from schools due to budget constraints. These creative outlets are so very important, not only for a child’s well-being, but also for self-expression and fun.

P&C: What about humor in a child’s life?
Hawn:
In my estimation, humor should not only be allowed, but also encouraged, in the classroom. A laughing child is a beautiful thing. In fact, one of our exercises [in the foundation’s educational program] is to laugh for 15 seconds before taking tests. It relaxes everyone, and children perform better when they have a more positive attitude.

P&C: What was school like for you?
Hawn:
I suffered from a mild case of dyslexia, so school was difficult for me. However, I was a happy child, so I always signed my papers, “Love, Goldie.”

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